Fall 2020

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Letters from Otis

Introducing Grid at Otis College

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Letter from the President and Provost

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Charles Hirschhorn, President and Jiseon Lee Isbara, Provost

Left: Otis College President Charles Hirschhorn (Photo by James Ross Mankoff); right: Provost Jiseon Lee Isbara

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Dear Otis Alumnx and Friends, 

We are excited to introduce you to Grid at Otis College, the new alumnx and friends magazine of Otis College of Art and Design. It debuts at an extraordinary time in the College’s history. Storytelling is more important than ever, and we hope that Grid will remind the Otis Community what makes it special and unique in the world. 

Since we joined Otis College as the new President and Provost this summer, all of the in-person traditions and daily interactions that would normally mark the fall semester have been virtual, and most of our encounters with alumnx, students, faculty, and staff have been through Zoom. We have not let that deter us. We see technology as an opportunity to meet with as many members of the Otis Community as possible. We have learned what’s on your mind and what makes Otis special. Our community is stronger than ever and is moving forward together. 

We hope Grid helps inspire thoughts about our future. Over the past several weeks all of us across the College have started to have conversations about what we would like Otis College to look like in 2022. These conversations are important because with the unprecedented changes this year, we know that Otis College will evolve and not return to what it was, even in our most recent past. There have been many ideas and we welcome yours.

On October 22, we held a public forum on Race & The Creative Economy, with over 700 people registering for the event. The forum included an update from Beacon Economics that stated California has lost nearly 300,000 jobs in the Creative Economy this year. The Creative Economy is wounded, both by a pandemic and social injustice. It’s up to artists and designers to help repair these wounds, and rebuild a stronger, more just Creative Economy. An Otis education has never been more useful or important in helping organizations and communities think creatively about these new challenges. You can read a recap in this issue

We’ve launched Grid online with the hope that the magazine will move into print in the coming years and join the rich tradition of the former alumnx and friends magazine, O-Mag, which was published at the College from 2005 to 2015. Enjoy reading this magazine as if you received it in the mail. There is much to appreciate. 

Special thanks to Anna Raya, Editorial Director, and Sheharazad Fleming, Creative Director, who worked with Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Jeffrey Perkins, along with John Mandeville and Alex Devivye from the web team, and others in the Communications and Marketing department, who conceived and built Otis College’s first online magazine.

Thanks to them and to you for all that you do in the world and for Otis. 


Charles Hirschhorn

Jiseon Lee Isbara

Letter from the Editor

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Overhead view of Darel Carey’s Dimensions in Time mural at Otis College

Overhead view of Darel Carey’s Dimensions in Time mural at Otis College

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This first “issue” of Grid at Otis College has evolved several times since we first started talking about it over a year ago. We wanted to be true to the spirit of its predecessor, O-Mag, while also pushing forward with storytelling that was reflective of and responsive to the lives of everyone in the Otis Community right now. Nothing is more top of mind than the COVID-19 pandemic and the College’s inward look at issues of racism and representation that started over the summer in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. These issues have so gripped Otis’s community of students, alumnx, faculty, and staff that we dedicated this launch issue to exploring some of the ways the community has been addressing them. 

Heather John Fogarty (’18 MFA Writing) spoke to several instructors about how they adapted their classrooms for online learning this fall—once local health guidelines restricted in-person classes—and some of the breakthroughs they and their students have made in creating and staying connected during the pandemic. Karissa Lake, Otis’s Social Media Coordinator, interviewed alumnx Noah Humes (’17 BFA Communications Arts, Illustration), Aaron Gonzelez (’19 BFA Communication Arts), and Patsy Pitts (’18 BFA Fine Arts) about the Black Lives Matter-related murals they created over the summer, and how their art moved from the personal to the protest. I talked to Vice-President of Human Resources and Development, Karen D. Hill, about the diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy at Otis, and her work in establishing the newly-formed DEI Council and helping to recruit the College’s first-ever DEI executive. For her, diversity, equity, and inclusion has been part of her lived experience and has informed her work in human resources for over 20 years. We’ve also recapped Otis’s first-ever “Race & The Creative Economy” virtual forum, which took place on October 22 as a preview to next spring’s 14th annual Otis Report and the Creative Economy. During the virtual event, creatives from several sectors, including alumnx Maurice Harris (’05 BFA Fine Arts), discussed how to open up more opportunities for BIPOC artists and designers. “If we don’t center equity in our work then we risk a lack of relevance,” said panelist Kristen Sakoda, Director of Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture. 

And then there’s the five alumnx—Darel Carey (’16 BFA Fine Arts), Teresa Flores (’13 MFA Public Practice), Nikkolos Mohammed (’13 BFA Fine Arts), Hayley Quentin (’08 BFA Fine Arts), and Alison Saar (’81 MFA Fine Arts)—who shared some of their current work and the inspiration behind it. For them, the pandemic and this period of social unrest has been woven into their creative process. 

Postponing our initial plans to launch Grid as a print publication turned out to have a silver lining. By starting virtually we were inspired by Otis’s own recent nimbleness in exploring stories and topics that truly spoke to this moment. Our departure from a more traditional magazine also informed our name and logo, which was conceived and designed by our Creative Director, Sheharazad Fleming. As artists and designers, we all have different processes that define our creative output, but yet when you pull back the layers—vector, acrylic, or whatever the medium—behind it all stands the foundation for the piece, the grid. Fleming brought this concept to life with individual letterforms of varying shapes, which, when brought together, form a non-traditional grid. The inspiration was the Otis community, and how it encompasses all different types of creatives. 

We’d like to extend a special thank you to Hazel Mandujano, Director of Alumni Relations, for her collaborative spirit in working with us on the launch of Grid. Her input has been invaluable, including in how you might notice that throughout Grid we’ve adopted the term alumnx to refer to Otis College BFA, MFA, and Extension graduates, singular and plural. Moving to this non-binary, gender-neutral term more aligns with the College’s values of inclusion and representation. 

Grid represents a new direction for Otis in many different ways. We hope you find insight and inspiration in this launch issue, and of course welcome any feedback you may have at communications@otis.edu

Anna Raya
Editorial Director